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What is the Role of Technology in Education?

By Larry Fletcher / Director of Technology / Sycamore School

Today’s generation of students is growing up in a digital world. Using digital devices is a huge part of their everyday experience out of school. Through Google they have access to a wide wealth of digital information, content and resources.

With all the experience this generation of students has with technology outside the school, it makes sense to have it in the classroom. This challenges the teaching profession to change their views and methods of teaching. Learning styles are changing and teachers need to adapt their teaching styles. This generation of “digital natives” offers a new challenge to teachers.

There have been improvements in education as a result of technology:
● Engagement
● Motivation
● Independent learning
● Parental engagement
● Student and staff attendance and punctuality
● Extending the students’ learning time

With the change in learning styles, the role of the teacher is changing too; as well as being a presenter of lesson material, they also assume the role of facilitator/coach in an increasingly collaborative learning environment.

The classroom has gone from a traditional whiteboard to an interactive projector through which multiple people can interact. Another popular interaction is to project your Macbook or iPad through the projector via an Apple TV.

For more personalized learning, laptops, netbooks and tablets are increasing in the classroom. Globally 2% of students have a mobile computing device supplied by the school, forecast to increase to 7% by 2016.

Different teachers and schools will certainly want to use technology at different paces; in some schools the teachers will be working directly with the interactive projector all day whereas others will turn it on to highlight a key message and then turn it off. The same will happen with 1:1 computer learning.

Individual 1:1 teaching equipment is not new. In its most basic format many schools use small, simple hand-held whiteboards for students to write on, allowing each to write an answer or create a picture which can be held up for the teacher or class to see.

The first individual student communication technology was the voting system, allowing each student to answer questions which could then be automatically collated and attributed to them.

Teachers would often start the lesson with a couple of short questions to assess understanding of the previous lesson and to see if they needed to go back and recap – much more precise than just a show of hands. However, mobile PCs (laptops, netbooks, tablets) truly unleash the full potential of 1:1 learning, allowing a fully personalized learning experience for each student.

The concept of the “Flipped Classroom” is a method of teaching which is turning the traditional classroom on its head. In a flipped classroom content is delivered outside the classroom, often online. Students do not need a teacher there when they are just viewing a lecture which can be done at home, perhaps by watching a video created by the teacher, or when they are completing an assignment. Then, back in the classroom, students are ready to discuss or do activities involving the content they learned.

Technology in education is always evolving. The next latest software or hardware devices are constantly changing along with methods of teaching with technology. This is an exciting time to be in education.

Larry Fletcher is the Director of Technology at Sycamore School, and his team includes John George and B.J. Drewes.  They face the daily task of making sure the entire school stays connected, with the highest possible download rate and no hiccups. They also have an uncanny ability to know how to fix things we think we may have broken. 


Fill the Pail and Light the Fire

2By Glenna Lykens / Head of Lower School / Sycamore School

William Butler Yeats is credited with a well-known quote: “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.” This quote has always bothered me, and I decided to do some research.

The first thing I discovered is that William Yeats did not write this line, but has been credited with it since the 1980’s. The closest connection to the quote probably originated from thoughts by Plutarch. Those interested can follow the trail of the saying at Quote Investigator.

I understand the point of the saying: Don’t just pour content into a student, but ignite their desire to learn and elicit the understanding they already possess. But I believe the reality is that an effective teacher needs to fill the pail AND light the fire.

It is important for a teacher to find out what students already know, but also what misinformation students are using as a foundation for their ideas and beliefs. Teachers spend a lot of time before and during learning assessing to check for students’ knowledge and understanding. If a student’s pail is too empty of either of those, meaningful learning cannot take place. As a student’s pail of knowledge becomes more filled, he or she becomes eager for the pail to grow even bigger. Knowledge often spurs a thirst for more knowledge. And there must be a certain level of knowledge for students to comprehend important ideas and larger concepts. This knowledge and understanding is the kindling needed for teachers to be able to light the fire. You can’t light a fire in an empty bucket.

So why is lighting the fire important?

Teachers need to find a way for students to take the content, information, and ideas they learn and engage with them in meaningful ways. They do this through discussion, exploration, experimentation, and discovery. More importantly, they need to use them as a springboard and apply them to new settings, ideas, and challenges. For teachers to light the fire they need to find ways to excite, engage, and motivate students.

As we began this school year, Lower School teachers had a conversation about filling the pail and lighting the fire. Neither is easy to do; teachers work hard to find ways to reach all students to give them the content and the engagement and excitement. We discussed ways to do both. We said that to fill the pail teachers must first build relationships with students and recognize their individual needs. Students need to learn strategies and processes, such as skills for critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity. They need to be taught the concrete skills and building blocks necessary for the larger ideas and concepts. Teachers need to balance teacher-centered and student-centered opportunities and give students the skills for independent learning. Students need to learn how to be tolerant and accepting as they discuss, debate, and probe in order to grow in their knowledge and understanding.

Teachers then take that kindling and light the fire for students. Lower School teachers discussed ways to do that. We talked about using humor and enthusiasm. We talked about sharing our own passions for ideas and concepts. Teachers find ways to engage students in real world examples and problems to solve. They provide opportunities for students to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes. Successes are celebrated. Student choice is integrated into what they learn, how they learn, and how they show what they’ve learned. Students learn how to make connections and then extensions. The best teachers show students that teachers are also students and students are also teachers. Students that are in an environment like that get engaged, get motivated, and get excited. They become life-long learners, and how amazing is that?!

So are teachers done after they fill the pail and light the fire? Of course not! Teaching and learning are never done. You need to fill the pail AND light the fire AND…

Glenna Lykens is Sycamore School’s Head of Lower School, overseeing grades 1-4. A classroom teacher at Sycamore before taking her current position, she has taught and focused on differentiated education for more than 20 years.

Could Your Child be Gifted?

playdate8By Susan Karpicke / Director of Admissions and School Counselor

Parents are known to be among the best identifiers of gifted children. If you think you have a gifted child, you may very well be right. Listed below are some typical characteristics of gifted kids

Early language development: Gifted children typically have well-developed language skills at an early age. The words they use (expressive language) may be advanced or they may understand (receptive language) complex instructions even before they can speak. Late talkers may begin talking in full sentences.

Great memory: Smart kids usually have very good memories. They remember instructions the first time they hear them and frequently don’t need repetition. Note to parents: They also remember what you promised them so don’t make promises that you don’t intend to keep.

Curiosity: These kids are often called “little sponges.” They are very curious about most things and insatiably curious about their areas of passion. Be ready to use all available resources to help them find answers to their many questions.

Rapid learning: Bright kids learn quickly and are eager to “move on.” This is part of the reason why they need a different kind of education to keep them engaged in their learning.

Sense of humor: Gifted kids can often see humor in a situation, even at a very young age.

Intensity: These children can be passionate about their areas of interest. They often exhaust a topic before moving on to the next topic.

Long attention span: Parents of gifted children often mention that their children can attend to something they are interested in for an unusually long amount of time for their age group.

Sensitivity: Bright children are usually sensitive and can “read” people and situations well. Parents need to be very cautious about the visual and written content they are exposed to, especially on TV or the Internet. Gifted kids can also be very physically sensitive. They often dislike scratchy fabrics, tags in their shirts, seams on their socks, and loud noises.

Observational skills: Bright kids are observers. They like to know what to expect from a new situation or event before they participate. Be ready for questions like “Where are we going?” “Who will be there?” “What will we be doing?” “What kind of food will they serve?”

Preference for older playmates: If given a choice, gifted children tend to be drawn toward the older children in a group. Older kids are more likely than age peers to share interests and to think and talk like they do.

Perfectionism: Since they are naturally able to do many things well, most gifted kids grow up expecting a lot from themselves. They like to do things correctly the first time and can get frustrated when that doesn’t happen.

Strong sense of morality and justice: Gifted children like things to be fair and just. They are compassionate and especially dislike it when others are being hurtful to their friends.

If many of these characteristics describe your child, he or she may be gifted. Visit to learn about the kind school environment in which gifted kids can truly thrive.


Karpicke Susan_

Dr. Susan Karpicke had two of her children attend Sycamore School, and has been the Director of Admissions here for more than 25 years. She also is a counselor, and combining the two skills has proven to be an invaluable addition to the admissions process for parents.

What is Developmentally Appropriate Instruction for High Ability Young Children?

By Francine Clayton / Head of Early Childhood / Sycamore School

Identifying gifted characteristics in your preschool or kindergarten child is only the beginning of your journey toward developing your child’s unique abilities. 
Some parents will look for a program that involves formal instruction in reading, writing and mathematics.  There is the feeling that formal instruction involving memorization, drill, flash cards, and practice work sheets is necessary in order to develop a child’s highly superior academic potential.  It is important to understand, however, that gifted children are still children and not miniature adults.  They have mighty brains in very young bodies.  As a result, developmentally appropriate practice is just as important for them as for other young children.

Developmentally appropriate practice involves meeting children where they are developmentally.  This requires that teachers assess their students physically, emotionally, socially and academically.  After this assessment and the teacher’s observations, challenging but achievable goals will be set for each child.  Clearly, when a student possesses high intellectual potential, the goals will need to be appropriate for their ability level.  For this reason, differentiated instruction is a characteristic of gifted education.  Gifted children develop in an asynchronous manner.  A child may be extremely capable in one area but develop less quickly in another.  Differentiated instruction is a tool that allows teachers to plan various levels of difficulty in content, instructional process, and the products that the child will complete in order to indicate understanding.

An appropriate early childhood classroom environment should support differentiated instruction by providing a variety of resources for children to explore:
– Hands on activities
– Time to solve real problems
– Challenging goals are characteristics of a gifted program.
– Interest areas should change or provide new activities on a regular basis.
– Teacher directed instruction occurs in large or small groups.

Young children learn best by participating in hands-on activities that are structured by the teacher to help students gain greater skill and knowledge in all areas.   All children need to be active in order to process what they are learning.  These are two  important reasons why play is such a necessary part of early childhood curriculum.

It is also the reason that gifted children learn better when they are in a classroom with intellectual peers.   Research has shown that play helps children develop skills in language, creativity, taking turns, and emotional self- regulation. Children will integrate new information that they have learned into their play.  High ability children who play together will plan more complicated games and use higher level language skills than would be noticeable in other groups.  As a result, they enjoy a higher intellectual level of play.

As I hope you can see, educating gifted young children is more than drills, worksheets, and formal instruction.  Basic skills are important but they need to be taught in a way that integrates them into developmentally appropriate practice for young children.

The early years are a gift for you and your child to enjoy.

Clayton Francine n

Francine Clayton is the Head of Early Childhood at Sycamore School in Indianapolis. She taught PreK at Sycamore for 13 years before becoming head of childhood in 2010.  She’s the mom of two girls and grandmother of two.  Originally from Nebraska, she did her graduate work in Ann Arbor at the University of Michigan before moving to Indiana to teach. 


Three Children. Three Choices.

By Holly Lee / Director of Advancement / Sycamore School

birdnestAs my youngest child leaves for his last first day of college, I am thinking back on all of the educational decisions we have made for our children. Three children with three totally different personalities yet the one constant in their education is that they all attended Sycamore School. After Sycamore, my three children have made different educational choices. Two chose public high school, one chose private. Two chose private college and one chose a public university. It has all worked for them and I believe that is because they all received such a solid foundation.

My children attended Sycamore in the 1990s. They all started in Early Childhood. At Sycamore, they were exposed to wonderful teachers. With seven years between my first and last child, very few teachers had all three of my kids. All of their Sycamore teachers possessed enthusiasm and they were all experts in their field. Teachers at Sycamore love what they do. They are excited about what they are teaching and that excitement can’t help but spill over. I can’t think of a time when my children were not excited by what they had learned at school.

Teachers at Sycamore are amazing. They spend time thinking about how to challenge each child in the room. I have had a child in the top ability group of the class and in the bottom group. It did not matter all that much as each of my children’s needs were being met and they were stretching and growing.

Sycamore also provided our family with two wonderful side benefits of the excellent education: my children made friends like them and I had friends who could celebrate and commiserate alongside of me. Many of those relationships have continued beyond the halls of the school.

As I look back on all of the money we have spent on educating our three children, I think our best investment by far was the first one we made : Sycamore School. If your children receive a good base on which to build, the options are limitless!

Holly Lee has been Sycamore School’s Director of Advancement for five years.  She’s focused on not-for-profit fundraising for the past 20 years.  Her three children, Austin, Meredith, and Garrett, attended Sycamore School.  Austin is a graduate of Wheaton College and George Washington University (MPH), and is working on his M.D. at IU School of Medicine. Meredith is a Butler University graduate, and working as a writer.  Garrett is going to be a senior at Indiana University in the Kelley School of Business.  

What is the Governance Structure of Independent Schools?

By Diane Borgmann / Head of School 

20th_GIFUnlike public or parochial schools, independent schools have no relationship to the government or to any religious body. Independent schools provide their own governance—an awesome freedom, and also an awesome responsibility!

The governing body of Sycamore is our Board of Trustees. The Board is the guardian of the mission; trustees ensure that the mission is relevant and vital and that the school is fulfilling the mission. The Board is the sole legal entity to have ultimate responsibility for the school, and the Board exists only when it is in an official meeting of the entire Board. The Board and I work in partnership, but within clearly defined roles, to advance Sycamore and to fulfill its mission.

There are several principles of good practice for boards and trustees created by the National Association of Independent Schools. Sycamore’s Board of Trustees is a very appropriate and strong board that subscribes to all of these principles.

The Board and the Head of School work in partnership to fulfill these principles:

  1. The Board adopts a clear mission statement, vision, and strategic goals, as well as consistent policies and plans.
  2. The Board maintains by-laws that conform to legal requirements, including duties of loyalty, obedience, and care.
  3. The Board assures that the school and the Board operate in compliance with applicable laws and regulations, minimizing exposure to legal action. The Board creates a conflict of interest policy that is signed by trustees annually.
  4. The Board accepts accountability for the financial stability and the financial future of the school, engaging in strategic financial planning, assuming primary responsibility for the preservation of capital assets and endowments, overseeing operating budgets, and participating actively in fund raising.
  5. The Board selects, supports, nurtures, evaluates, and sets appropriate compensation for the Head of School.
  6. The Board recognizes that its primary work and focus are long-range and strategic.
  7. The Board undertakes strategic planning on a periodic basis, sets annual goals related to the plan, and conducts annual evaluations for the school, the Head of School, and the Board itself.
  8. The Board keeps full and accurate records of its meetings, committees, and policies and communicates its decisions widely, while keeping its deliberations confidential.
  9. Board composition reflects the strategic expertise, resources, and perspectives needed to achieve the mission and strategic objectives of the school.
  10. The Board works to ensure all its members are actively involved in the work of the Board and its committees.
  11. As leader of the school community, the Board engages proactively with the Head of School in cultivating and maintaining good relations with school constituents as well as the broader community and exhibits best practices relevant to equity and justice.
  12. The Board is committed to a program of professional development that includes annual new trustee orientation, ongoing trustee education and evaluation, and board leadership succession planning.

Individual trustees are guided by the following principles:

  1. A trustee actively supports and promotes the school’s mission, vision, strategic goals, and policy positions.
  2. A trustee is knowledgeable about the school’s mission and goals, including its commitment to equity and justice, and represents them appropriately and accurately within the community.
  3. A trustee stays fully informed about current operations and issues by attending meetings regularly, coming to meetings well prepared, and participating fully in all matters.
  4. An individual trustee does not become involved directly in specific management, personnel, or curricular issues.
  5. A trustee takes care to separate the interests of the school from the specific needs of a particular child or constituency.
  6. A trustee accepts and supports Board decisions. Once a decision has been made, the Board speaks as one voice.
  7. A trustee keeps all Board deliberations confidential.
  8. A trustee guards against conflict of interest, whether personal or business related.
  9. A trustee has the responsibility to support the school and the Head of School and to demonstrate that support within the community.
  10. Authority is vested in the Board as a whole. A trustee who learns of an issue of importance to the school has the obligation to bring it to the Head of School or to the Board Chair, and must refrain from responding to the situation individually.
  11. A trustee contributes to the development program of the school, including strategic planning for development, financial support, and active involvement in annual and capital giving.
  12. Each trustee, not just Treasurer and Finance Committee, has fiduciary responsibility to the school for sound financial management.

Sycamore is fortunate to have a Board of Trustees that takes its work very seriously. I am fortunate to work with such an amazing group of dedicated Sycamore supporters!


Borgmann Diane_n Diane Borgmann / Sycamore School

Give Me Rigor or Give Me Mortis: Why Gifted Middle Schoolers Can’t Afford to Wait Until High School

science_girls2_weighBy Jamie MacDougall / Head of Middle School /Sycamore School

Michael Clay Thompson, Sycamore School’s former Head of Middle School and language guru,  once filled a room of teachers with the imperative battle cry, “GIVE ME RIGOR OR GIVE ME MORTIS!” The dictum gave way to laughter from the room teeming with educators.

The reaction stemming from surprise gave way to humor that gave way to silence as the acknowledgement of the depth of reality of that sentiment sank deeply.

For many gifted kids, middle school is an arid and unkind desert they are forced to cross from beloved elementary school to the promised land of high school. Regardless of location or programming, middle school is a time of great shift. Change comes at kids constantly in forms physiological, social, emotional. Some schools are hesitant to traverse the already uncertain terrain of adolescence, afraid that adding intellectual rigor will only worsen already tenuous conditions.

The reality is, however, while the grounds of change are unpredictable, unsettled, they can be highly productive, if navigated with intention, in providing the perspective needed to move one forward. It is the framing of the challenge, setting of the expectation, affirmation of confidence, and a proper map for a starting point that allows for great accomplishment.

Here are 3 reasons why gifted kids can’t afford to wait until high school for the stimulation needed to move them forward:

1. Regression to the Mean.
If the study of statistics makes your heart flutter, then you already know where this is going.  A few years ago, I had a summer conversation with a rising 5th grader who wanted to get a few questions off his chest before starting middle school. After the obligatory inquiry regarding locker combination mastery and nightly homework load, he started asking about gifted kids who weren’t at Sycamore. What happened to them? What if their school didn’t have a gifted program? As we were discussing how this was the reality for many kids, he interrupted with the utmost sincerity, “BUT AREN’T THOSE TEACHERS AFRAID THAT THE KIDS WILL REGRESS TO THE MEAN?!?!?”

His concern remains valid. Students who are not challenged appropriately will and do lose academic ground. They also lose interest, start to question their ability, and often find other, sometimes less productive, ways to fill their time. Educators are charged with meeting kids where they are and pushing them to where they can go. Or as my former 5th grade friend and I discussed, they are charged with keeping each student in Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development. In order to learn most efficiently and effectively, one needs work that is just hard enough that they have to push, but not so hard that the material is beyond their reach. The middle school years must continue to present new, exciting, challenging material for intellectual growth to persist. Kids who don’t get these kinds of experiences often struggle with things in high school that should have come easily to them.

2. Strong Sense of Social Justice
If you know a gifted middle schooler, you know that they have an inherent and definitive sense of social justice! They see what is going on in the world and how fair does not mean equal. There is a passion for identifying problems and a deep drive for rectifying situations gone awry*.

Gifted kids know when they are not being challenged, and they are correct in saying that it is not fair when that happens. They, like every student, deserve to learn something new every day in school. Clarification is often needed here, as challenge does not equate to more work, but quality work. Gifted kids need to grapple with big, messy questions and then delve into the details. They have the right to be excited about learning, and middle school is a great place to continue to fan that flame.

* This does not always apply to bedrooms, lockers, or other spaces that could, from adult perspectives, be identified as disaster zones.

3. Life is Now
If John Dewey’s work on education had to be distilled into one sentiment it is that education is not preparation for life, but life itself. Yes, the things that kids learn in school will prepare them for the future, but it also prepares them for NOW! Adults do amazing things, but so do kids. Dylan Mahalingam, Alexandra Scott, Divine Bradley, and Jack Andraka are great examples of what can happen if appropriate rigor, expectation, and access are granted during the middle school years. With well-intentioned curriculum that meets gifted kids needs, not only will they be prepared for what is to come, they will also be ready for what is.

Middle school is not a momentary pause in education. In fact, I like to think that they are some of the very best years: They are ready for the rigor, ripe to refute the regression, rallying for what is right, and refuse to wait!

Jamie MacDougall has been the Head of Middle School at Sycamore since 2011.  She hails from the frozen north, proudly calling Duluth, Minnesota her hometown. Jamie now lives in Indianapolis, and enjoys books, running and being with the students of Sycamore School.

What If Sycamore School Stopped Being A Nonprofit?

By Patrick Juday / Chief Financial Officer / Sycamore School

chicago_busHave you ever wondered what Sycamore School would be like if it were no longer a nonprofit organization? How would such a profound change alter the school’s mission, core values and operations?

Let’s start with what a nonprofit organization is.

Sycamore School operates as a nonprofit organization and clearly meets the educational purpose qualification.

The nonprofit status provides a number of benefits to the organization, not the least of which is that the school is exempt from many corporate taxes. Sycamore can also receive tax deductible gifts from individuals, and the school’s budget includes revenue from the Sycamore Fund to meet the school’s operating needs.

Without gifts to the Sycamore Fund, the school would not be able to cover the cost of educating a student at Sycamore School, as tuition does not cover the full cost.

Why doesn’t Sycamore just simply raise tuition to cover the full cost of educating a child?

I’ve heard this question asked over the years and it tends to be asked in tandem with “Why do we offer financial aid?”  Or “How can an organization charging for tuition even be considered a nonprofit organization?”

All great questions.

Every year the school develops a budget that attempts to minimize tuition increases and maintain a level of affordability for all families. The board consists of current parents, among others, and they take seriously the effort needed to balance the operating needs of the school against the price to attend. The tax exempt status of the school incentivizes those families with resources to generously give to the school and keep the tuition level below the actual cost.

The school doesn’t just meet the educational purpose qualification for a nonprofit but goes beyond it by offering financial aid. By charging tuition at a level below the cost of educating a child AND offering financial aid to needy families the school maintains a necessary philosophical basis to operate as a nonprofit organization.

Consider the alternative: We wake up one day and the IRS declares that independent schools are no longer tax exempt. The Sycamore Fund goes away (Who wants to donate now?), owners will require a Return on Investment, AND the school starts paying corporate income taxes, all on top of meeting operational needs. What becomes of tuition levels then? How does the school balance its mission for gifted students with an ROI? Can the mission survive the profit motive amongst the existing competition?

There are schools that operate as for-profit corporations across the country. However, given the current cost of educating a child, the investment seems particularly risky. For this independent school CFO, this scenario is a financial model nightmare I don’t even want to dream about.


Technology Big Part of Future at Sycamore

By Larry Fletcher / Director of Technology / Sycamore School

Sycamore has a lot of technology available for the teachers and students. Our goal is to purchase and implement technology that is educationally driven.

We visit organizations and schools outside of Sycamore and have seen how other schools are using technology. Our technology team has been very successful taking ideas from our travels and implementing them at Sycamore. We now get calls and visits from other schools, wanting us to show them the equipment we have and how we incorporate technology into the classroom.

Our technology committee includes our tech personnel, division heads, and teacher representatives from each division. We meet during the school year and discuss our technology goals.and the best way to achieve them.

As we move into the 2015-16 school year, we move forward with a number of technology initiatives, including the second year of the Middle School 1-to-1 iPad program.   One of the results  of our Technology committee’s work was implementing the 1-to-1 iPad program before last school year.  The initiative is now integrated into grades 5 through 8.  It has been successful and has been gaining more usage from both as it becomes just another tool to use to in the classroom. Communications between teachers and students have improved since implementing the program.  Some other initiatives we are incorporating will be with the flipped classrooms, online textbooks, email, and research.

Technology also appears where the Sycamore open lab used to be. It was converted into an innovation lab over the most recent spring break. The lab is equipped with an interactive projector, Makey Makeys, 3D printer, structure sensor, Swivl. Stop by and we will demonstrate how it is being utilized.

Students are digital natives, which means they grew up using this technology. It comes naturally to them, so it is something they immediately embrace. We have entered their digital world.

We believe that technology is a big part of our present and will be a bigger part of our future.

Larry Fletcher is the Director of Technology at Sycamore School, and his team includes John George and B.J. Drewes.  They face the daily task of making sure the entire school stays connected, with the highest possible download rate and no hiccups. They also have an uncanny ability to know how to fix things we think we may have broken. 

What Your Gift Means to Sycamore

By Holly Lee / Director of Advancement / Sycamore School

IMG_1714Have you wondered what difference your gift makes to Sycamore School?  The truth is that your gift makes a big difference.  Like other independent schools, Sycamore School operates without the financial support from local, state or federal governments. As such, Sycamore deeply appreciates and depends on financial donations support our students and staff.

Financial gifts to the school average $400,000 each year. Sycamore depends on this money, and we budget yearly for this amount. Philanthropy to the school amounts to over $1,000 per student in benefits that tuition does not provide. These gifts directly fund academic and extracurricular needs as well as capital improvements.

In Sycamore’s 30 year history, gifts to the school have provided the place and the program we all enjoy today. At the beginning, Sycamore School families and teachers did not envision themselves as founders of a private, independent school. They simply wanted to provide a quality program to challenge gifted children. They began by renting space from a Unitarian church adjacent to Butler University. After four years in its original location, Sycamore was fortunate to be able to lease and then purchase an abandoned school building in Washington Township, the former Grandview Elementary School.

Sycamore’s program has always been the school’s primary point of focus. In 1998 “Growing in Excellence” capital campaign raised $4.1 million. Middle school classrooms, science, art and music rooms all underwent renovations.

In 2001, “Reach for the Stars” and  “Minds and Bodies” campaigns raised $5.1 million to fund a Lower school renovation, cafeteria renovations, new library, theater and gymnasium.

In addition to capital campaigns, The Sycamore Fund campaigns have been the lifeblood of the school. The Sycamore Fund, which is the annual campaign for gifts to the school, provides monies that are raised and spent within each academic school year. The largest donor each year to the campaign, SSA, holds a fundraiser annually whereby they give monies to the school that are spent in that school year. Ideally, Sycamore families should identify the school as one of their top philanthropic priorities and recognize that their contribution makes both an immediate and lasting impact on the school and its programs.

All gifts are important to Sycamore. Some donors can give more than others; however, it is important that all participate. Currently, all staff and trustees donate every year. We also ask our parents, former parents, grandparents and alumni to join us. Gifts at any level, when added to all other gifts received have a great impact on our school.

Holly Lee has been Sycamore School’s Director of Advancement for five years.  She’s focused on not-for-profit fundraising for the past 20 years.  Her three children, Austin, Meredith, and Garrett, attended Sycamore School.  Austin is a graduate of Wheaton College and George Washington University (MPH), and is working on his M.D. at IU School of Medicine. Meredith is a Butler University graduate, and working as a writer.  Garrett is going to be a senior at Indiana University in the Kelley School of Business.